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ISRAEL - June 16 - US Supervision of Arms Exports Resisted.

The US presses for greater US supervision of Israeli weapons exports and seeks to persuade Israel to cancel the sale of a spy plane to China, but Israel is unreceptive. The 'Haaretz' daily says the US has drawn up a list of 27 countries it considers problematic destinations for Israeli weapons, including China and India, 2 major Israeli clients. Israeli officials reject the idea of US monitoring, but refuse to comment directly on June 16, fearing diplomatic repercussions. (In the past, most Israeli weapons systems included US components, and since the US bans re-export of its technology without its agreement, Washington had automatic supervision over most deals. But Israel's weapon manufacturers now can build sophisticated arms without using American technology, forcing the US to look for new ways to monitor Israel's exports.)

One US official says the US is concerned that Israeli military high-tech will end up in the wrong hands and endanger US troops. Officials from the US State Department and the Pentagon raise the issue, on June 16, with the director general of the Israeli Defence Ministry, Amos Yaron. (Earlier 2000, disagreement erupted over Israel's contract to sell a plane equipped with the PHALCON early warning system to China. Israel is building one now, and China has an option to buy at least 3 more. The US is trying to force cancellation of the sale, pointing to renewed tensions between China and Taiwan.)

Israeli officials have said the dispute is over business, not security, and that the US government is trying to shield its own arms manufacturers from Israeli competition. Israel says the system has no American components. Efraim Inbar of Bar Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies, says: "There is an element of superpower bullying here". He says American supervision would lead to the cancellation of some deals, and that this could destroy Israel's arms industry and endanger Israel's security. (As a matter of policy, Israel does not comment on arms exports.) Inbar estimates that Israeli arms manufacturers sell US$2 bn worth of arms a year, 75% to foreign countries and 25% to the Israeli army. On June 15, Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh told Israel's parliament that Israel needs to keep exporting on a large scale to finance the development of new weapons systems and stay a step ahead of its enemies.

(An example of Israel's home-grown sophistication is the Merkava tank, in use since the 1980s, replacing US-made models. For the 1st time, the Merkava will be on display next week at Eurosatory, a weapons exhibition in Paris. The Israelis are showcasing its locally developed high-tech features. Israeli arms have shown up all over the world, sometimes after shady 3rd-party deals, but also when Israel has acted as an agent for the US in touchy political circumstances. In the 1980s, Israel transferred TOW anti-tank missiles and other weapons to Iran in a 4-sided deal that involved the US and Nicaragua. The sales were part of a Washington scandal that became known as Irangate.) Referring to the US, Inbar says: "We do their dirty work".
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 17, 2000
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